Monday, September 8, 2008

lambchop - OH (ohio)

I feel old even contemplating it, but if you believe the Wiki hype, Lambchop are celebrating their 22nd year as a band. They came on my radar ten or twelve years ago through No Depression and a crazy Greek lady I was obsessed with. The idea of a country-soul orchestra was intriguing and while I liked What Another Man Spills and early Lambchop fare, it got swept up in the drama of an unhealthy attraction and obsessive haircutting. I remember seeing Mac play with them at a Merge showcase and not being especially impressed.

When Clark leant me the Superchunk records that got me through the aftermath of my personal foray into Greek tragedy, Lambchop came part and parcel. Soon after, Steven introduced me to Alex at Brownies, when he was playing in Jack Logan's band and I realized that Mark Evers was Mac's roommate at NYU, accounting for the heavy Merge interest. I started combing the used bins and working my angles to try and fill out the gaps in the collection.

Lambchop ushered in the idea of a big band in the indie world long before silly bands like Bang Camaro and Polyphonic Spree became the soundtrack to my nightmares. With all respect to Brian Teasley, the idea of a Jesus Christ Superstar-themed band filled with a bunch of people reliving the glories of their high school choir days gives me douche chills at 200 paces. While that ridiculousness can stop immediately, when Lambchop leader Kurt Wagner coalesced the band's sound into something he called 'soultry', it really clicked for me. Melding Owen Bradley country strings to Penn/Oldham soul got them a fair amount of attention in the States but the UK and German kids really flipped for Team Mutton. This accounts for there being more shows with the big band overseas and the preponderance of Wagner solo shows in recent years. 

Lambchop is an ever-changing collective. Despite being the linchpin of the Lambchop outfit, Wagner has always shied away from the limelight, despite writing the lion's share of the material and lyrics. In recent years the band has coalesced around a core of seven players that includes Wagner and MacManus as well as erstwhile member/producer Mark Evers. Evers broke from Lambchop tradition, sharing recording duties on OH (ohio) with Roger Moutenot. Moutenot wanted to capture a live feel, which seems like more than a foregone conclusion for the Lambchop franchise, but either way OH (ohio) is a beautifully warm-sounding record that more than capture their 'soultry' aesthetic.  My personal favorite is National Talk Like A Pirate Day, but each of the eleven songs are pretty spectacular in their own charmingly understated way. I'm not terribly surprised, in fact most of my questions about OH (ohio) revolve around why there would be a painting of Wayne Coyne getting his freak on for the cover. Maybe some clerical issues that changed the title from OK (oklahoma)? Or perhaps an homage to City Slang releasing In a Priest Drawn Ambulance? All conjecture aside, it's unclear to me what the meaning of the title is, but it's a great record whatever you call it. It's due to drop on 10/7 through Merge, with vinyl on City Slang. You can preorder from Merge here.  No info on the City Slang vinyl yet, but check the links below.


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